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Evaluating and using Information

This will explain how to use information properly.

Site: QMplus - The Online Learning Environment of Queen Mary University of London
Course: Find It! Use It! Reference It! QMUL Information Literacy Skills
Book: Evaluating and using Information
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Tuesday, 26 May 2020, 1:18 AM

1. Introduction

Effectively evaluating information is one of the key skills that we are encouraging you to develop in this module.

Let's start in a very general way by thinking about how different academic disciplines approach and use information.

  • Is there a single approach which can be used to evaluate information in all subjects?
  • Can certain information always be regarded as inherently unsuitable for academic study?
  • And can complex theories and ideas ever be simply expressed, or simple ideas ever become over-complicated because of poor writing?


Test your ability to evaluate information in this quiz. The first question is intended for all QMUL students; the other questions relate to specific subjects, but even if, for example, you're not a Chemistry student, have a go at answering Question 2 - we hope that the feedback we give will help you think more widely about the complex nature of information and its uses.

Why not discuss the matter with friends; you may find that people studying other subjects have a rather different take on the matter!

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

2. How do I know that I have found the information that I need?

There are some simple questions which you should always ask yourself when evaluating information:
  • Who wrote the text you are reading? Can you determine the author's credentials?
  • What actually is it? Is it an article or perhaps a passage from an e-book, or does it come from a blog, a tweet or an online discussion thread?
  • Why was this text written? Consider the motives of the author - are they trying to persuade, to demonstrate or prove something?
  • When was it written? It is not always the case that the most recently published information is the best so think carefully about this.
  • And finally, is what you are reading relevant to your own work?

Check out this short animated introduction to evaluating information: it will help you memorise the five points mentioned above until they have become second nature.

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

3. Plagiarism and how to avoid it

Once you have gathered together a sufficient amount of information from sources that you judge to be reliable you then have to actually write your essay. 

Producing good quality academic writing is something that most people have to learn: critiquing the work of others, constructing a coherent and plausible argument and writing well are specific skills that are dealt with by our colleagues in the Learning Development Team.

It is important that the coursework you produce reflects Queen Mary's core values: the scholarship of our staff and students is fundamentally underpinned by integrity and honesty. Plagiarism is a word that you may have heard of and feel scared by: understanding plagiarism will help you overcome these fears. We have a short cartoon for you that introduces the basics.


  • When marking essays and coursework, academics at Queen Mary use powerful software called Turnitin to check that their students have not taken material from books, journals and other publications without due acknowledgement. Turnitin also checks to ensure that students have not plagiarised the work of other students or lifted material straight from the Internet.
  • Students who are caught plagiarising other people's work face penalties that could have far-reaching effects.

So plagiarism is a very serious matter; but don't avoid it simply out of fear of the disciplinary consequences; avoid it because you seek to produce the best quality academic work you possibly can.

Once you have grasped the principles of correct source use and the citation style recommended by your department (see the next section of this module for more on citation styles) you can feel confident that you are steering clear of plagiarism.

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

4. It's Quiz Time!


Fully understanding what is - and what is not - plagiarism takes time. So let's get going...

Here is a fun quiz to get you started thinking about this important issue in more depth.

 Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team